Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland talks to media as she makes here way through the foyer of the House of Commons in the West Block of Parliament Hill as she arrives for question period in Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada to host Venezuela summit to support anti-Maduro forces

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed its next session will be in Ottawa.

Canada will host a meeting of Western Hemisphere countries next Monday to address the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

The Lima Group, a coalition of more than a dozen countries in the Americas, minus the United States, was formed in August 2017 to address Venezuela’s growing backslide into authoritarianism. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed its next session will be in Ottawa.

Canada needs to play a leading role in the Lima Group because the crisis in Venezuela is unfolding in Canada’s global backyard, she said.

“This is our neighbourhood,” said Freeland said Monday. ”For Canadians, we have a very direct interest in what happens in our hemisphere. That is why we have been so active and will continue to be so active.”

READ MORE: Quiet Canadian diplomacy helped Guaido’s anti-Maduro movement in Venezuela

The group has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, saying President Nicolas Maduro’s continuing dictatorial rule is creating an economic and humanitarian crisis that has swelled beyond his country’s borders. Maduro was populist leader Hugo Chavez’s vice-president and came to power with Chavez’s death in 2013.

Freeland praised the role of Canadian diplomats in Caracas, who helped get the country’s opposition parties to coalesce behind the 35-year-old Guaido.

The Canadian Press interviewed senior Canadian government officials who have described Canada’s role in aiding democratic forces to help rescue the once oil-rich country from the economic and political spiral that has forced three million Venezuelans from their homes.

Freeland said Monday’s talks will focus in part on the refugee crisis has that has forced a flood of displaced people into neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

“Some of the stories of people coming across the border, unaccompanied children for example, in terrible conditions are really heart-wrenching,” said Freeland. ”We’ve seen with Syria the way in which a refugee crisis can have much broader destabilizing impacts.”

The Lima Group has also called for Maduro’s ouster, saying Guaido is the only “legitimately elected” Venezuelan leader after he won control of its National Assembly.

On Jan. 10, Maduro was sworn in as president with support of countries such as Cuba, Russia and China. The Lima Group denounced Maduro as illegitimate and Freeland said, “the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship.”

READ MORE: Dueling Venezuela leaders dig in defending presidency claims

Freeland has branded the rise of authoritarian leaders as a major foreign-policy challenge and she suggested Monday that Canada needs to work against it in the Americas.

“Our hemisphere has been going in the right direction and it is really important to stand up or to speak up for democracy and human rights.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken to Colombian President Ivan Duque and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to affirm their support of Guaido in recent days. On Sunday, Trudeau and Sanchez also agreed on “the imperative for new, free and fair elections in Venezuela,” according to Trudeau’s office.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Stellar musicians, performers recognized at 54th Pacific Northwest Music Festival

More than 150 awards, scholarships given out to Northwest B.C. participants

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Northwest B.C. leaders divided over oil tanker ban

Senate hearings in Prince Rupert and Terrace show Bill C-48 is at a crossroads

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Most Read